ALBERTON -- Health PEI’s announcement that Western Hospital’s emergency department will become a Collaborative Emergency Centre, is generated mixed reaction in West Prince.
Natasha Dunn, chair of the Keep Western Hospital Open committee, admits she’s skeptical. “They are committing to have highly trained health professionals in the CEC, but they are not saying if it’s a nurse practitioner, which level of paramedic, an RN… There’s nothing there. There’s no real commitment to what level of care we are going to be getting,” she said.
Dunn stressed that her committee’s mandate from the start has been to have a doctor-covered emergency department, 24/7, and that is still their preference.
A shortage of physicians to cover the hospital’s emergency department has resulted in several time slots when the emergency department has had to shut down because no physician was available to cover the shift. Dunn said she feels the shortage could be addressed if government removed some roadblocks to recruitment, and if that happened, there would be no need to look at the CEC model.
Krystyna Pottier, chair of the liaison committee on healath care issues in West Prince, was more welcoming of the CEC model but admitted the committee’s preference would be for the model to be used in the emergency department only during those time slots when a doctor was not available and added, “but we recognize that this new arrangement may be the only way to have continued sustainable 24/7 emergency coverage and continued operation of the hospital as an acute care facility.”
The CEC model is just one component of government’s Tuesday announcement on health care, “Better Access, Better Care for all Islanders.”
Changes were also announced for Community and Stewart Memorial Hospital in West Prince and Souris Hospital.
“We feel it will help to stabilize health care in P.E.I.. and especially in West Prince,” Pottier commented. Helen MacNeill, a member of the Keep Western Hospital Open committee, wasn’t finding the positives, though.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” she said, arguing shifting to a CEC model, when paramedics and other health care professionals have to be added to the model, will not save money. “If you filled the vacancies with doctors who want to do on-call, that’s solving the problem right there; it’s not all this stuff they are doing,” she argued.
If you filled the vacancies with doctors who want to do on-call, that’s solving the problem right there; it’s not all this stuff they are doing - West Prince resident, Helen MacNeill
Although she is not surprised by the announcement, suggesting government is simply following recommendations in the Corpus Sanchez report which recommends just two acute care hospitals in P.E.I., she said she is dismayed by what’s happening.
Thelma Sweet was a member of a committee fighting for services at Community Hospital in O’Leary. She said Tuesday the committee disbanded because government was not listening to their concerns. “It’s just exactly what I knew was coming. It’s not any big surprise to me. This was planned long ago,” she said.
She bristled at the introduction of a new model for emergency care. “In emergency, we can’t be as important if we are going to have a lesser level of care,” she said in comparing what will be available in Charlottetown and Summerside with what is being offered in West Prince.
Community Hospital in O’Leary and Souris Hospital are going to become Alternate Levels of Care facilities. Stewart Memorial Hospital in Tyne Valley becomes a long-term care facility.
Sweet said government had already turned Community Hospital into an ALC despite its insistence it was still an acute care facility. “They’re just making it official now,” she remarked.
Despite different views on the CEC and ALC models, everyone greeted the commitment that dialysis services would remain in Alberton.
Pottier also welcomed the addition of 8-1-1 Telehealth help line and additional ambulances for the province.
“Times have changed and health care needs to change along with the times. If this helps to meet the needs of residents in a better way, that’s good news,” Pottier reflected.